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May 2, 2024 29 mins

Inside the Ton is a 4-part special that dives deep into the genesis and journey of some of the most beloved characters from Shondaland’s Bridgerton series. This episode is all about the next leading lady, the wallflower, Penelope Featherington. Executive producer Betsy Beers is joined by Julia Quinn, author of the Bridgerton novels, showrunner Jess Brownell, and actress Nicola Coughlan to talk about the evolution of Penelope.   

While listening to Inside The Ton, rewatch Bridgerton Seasons 1 and 2 on Netflix. Then, Binge Bridgerton season 3 on Netflix starting May 16th and immediately enjoy all the tea with us each week.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Bridgerton The Official Podcast is a production of Shondaland in
partnership with iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:10):
Welcome to Bridgerton the Official Podcast, your exclusive peak behind
the curtain of Shondaland's Bridgerton Series. Season three premieres on
Netflix on May sixteenth, and rest assured, this podcast will
be your faithful companion, covering every single episode in depth
with extraordinary insights from some of the most amazing guests ever.

And while we're certainly feeling this like buzz anticipation, it's
way more buzzy than that because the premiere is only
fourteen days away, which actually means it's really fourteen days
too many. But we're just gonna have to wait. I'm
Betsy Beers, executive producer Bridgerton, and I'm your host for
Inside the ton a four part special that dives deep

into the genesis and the journey of some of the
most beloved characters.

Speaker 3 (01:00):
From the show.

Speaker 2 (01:04):
And on this very first inaugural episode, come on, it's
only fitting that we're talking about our next leading Lady,
the Wallflower, Penelope Featherington, joining me across this character spotlight
series or none other than Julia Quinn, author of the
Bridgerton novels and our incredible showrunner Jess Brownell. Plus later

you're gonna hear from the incomparable Nicola Coughlan herself on
the evolution of Penelope and all those amazingly big feelings
that are always bubbling up as she takes center stage.
But first, let's recall the recent events in the life
of Miss Penelope Featherington. Are you ready because I am.

While penn has always seemed like an awkward wallflower to
the other members of society, we all know that she's
actually the sharp witted gossip monger that that Ton just
can't get enough of. You know her, you love her,
Lady Whistledown, And at the end of season two, Eloise
discovered penelope secret, leading to the first major fracture in

the one relationship Penelope could always count on. Now to
the rest of the Ton, and especially Queen Charlotte, Lady
Whistledown's identity is obviously of great interest, but nobody knows
who she is yet. Okay, now, in order to know her,
Penelope might be headed.

Speaker 3 (02:32):
Where do we start? At the very beginning?

Speaker 2 (02:34):
A very good place to start, as our own Lady
Whistledown Julie Andrews one saying to help with that, I
had the incredibly cool experience of sitting down with Julia Quinn,
the original mind behind the Bridgerton universe, Julia Quinn, who
wrote eight Bridgerton novels that inspired our Netflix series. We

had such a good time talking about the inspiration behind
creating Penelope, the origins of Lady Whistledown, and by the way,
if it's an accident that all this Featherington girls have
names that start with the letter P, I don't know.
You got to listen to find out. Okay, today, what

we're gonna do is we're going to talk about something
I think we've all really been waiting for, which is
obviously Bridgerton Season three, And goodness, we've been waiting a
little while, but it's finally time.

Speaker 3 (03:31):
And I don't know.

Speaker 2 (03:32):
The season is so special for like so many different reasons.
But I got to say, as a gigantic, obsessive Penelope fan,
as I think a lot of people in this world are,
I can hardly wait for this season where we get
to focus on Colin and Penelope. And look, I would
assume you must feel the same way, given the fact
that you know, you originally created the characters of Penelope

and Colin.

Speaker 4 (03:55):
You know. So here's an interesting story before I wrote
this book, which is as much the book fans know
where I guess as all the book fans know is
actually the fourth book in the series, so we're going
a little out of order. So we'd had three books
to kind of build this up, and my fans were
all going.

Speaker 1 (04:11):
Colin, Colin, we want Collin's book.

Speaker 4 (04:12):
It's all about Colin, Colin, Colin, Colin. And then after
the book came out, all they wanted to talk about
was Penelope. I mean, she just which is something about
her just spoke to so many people in a way. Yeah,
no other heroine that I'd ever written had and I
mean the most vivid comment I got from somebody and

said something like, were you spying on me in high school?

Speaker 3 (04:40):
Because that was me?

Speaker 4 (04:42):
And I just think that the essence of Penelope, in
my mind, is someone who it's not that she doesn't know.

Speaker 3 (04:49):
Who she is.

Speaker 4 (04:50):
She knows who she is, but she doesn't know how
to be the person on the outside that she knows
she is on the inside. And I remember that feeling
so distinctly from my high school days. I pulled a
lot from that too.

Speaker 3 (05:04):
Is just it.

Speaker 4 (05:05):
Sounds so good in your head and then you say
it and it comes out all wrong and things like that,
and you're just like, no, I know I'm funny and
I know I'm smart, and how come whenever I then
try to be that way, it really feels like I'm
trying too hard or I just cannot be effortlessly effortless
sleep cool. See I still can't even say the word effortlessly.

Speaker 2 (05:26):
It's an overrated word. No, I know exactly what you mean.
I do think that that's the part. It's almost like
there's a jet lag between your brain and then when
it comes out of your mouth. That's somehow or another
time went by and it was great the way it
sounded in your hand, but then it popped out. And look,
I think we all at the core of it is
we all identify with PENELOPEA at one point or another,

because we've all been that person who felt like one
thing internally, and then we realize that we don't project
at all the way we actually I wished that we did. Now,
when you first started the world of Bridgerton, how soon
did Penelope emerge and what kind of thought process went

into your your I mean obviously your own experience, but
the creation of her character, like, what was that process like?

Speaker 4 (06:17):
So when I wrote the first book, she was really
kind of just this side character who came about who
there wasn't much of her. But I just wondered, I needed, like,
you know, this wallflower who she almost existed as a
prop or came up as a prop. So like the
Bridgington boys, we could show that they were kind because

they needed to be kind to somebody. And that's how
she first kind of entered, and then she kind of
became a little bit more. But when I was writing
the first book, I had no idea who Lady Whistledown was.

Speaker 3 (06:48):
I was just about to ask you that I.

Speaker 4 (06:50):
Figured it out, or I should say I decided when
I was right around me, probably a few chapters from
the end, and because I'm starting to panic, I'm thinking,
I really need to know who this is. Even if
I'm not going to reveal it, I need to know
who it is. And so then I decided, you know,
I think it should be Penelope because she's you know,
she's off everyone's radar. And then I went frantically back
to make sure I hadn't done anything to make it impossible,

like I hadn't, you know, had her often you know,
Scotland or something when when she would have to be
seeing something. And then from there, from the next few
books on, I knew that she was Lady Whistledown. So
there was a lot more thought involved in developing her character,
but in kind of a slightly stealth way not to

make it so obvious that she was going to be
this big part, and also just really kind of to
to ramp up her crush with on Colin. And so
one of my favorite scenes that she's in is actually
in an Offer from a Gentleman, which is Book three,
which they have a version of it in last season,
where she overhears Colin saying I'm never going to marry

Penelope Featherington and it's it's the world's most awkward moment.
It's a little different in the book because he's talking
with his brothers then as opposed to a bunch of friends,
and you know, his brothers are really horrified on his behalf.
I mean they just I mean they can't even defend
him because it's just this terrible, terrible moment. And yeah,
so kind of went on from there.

Speaker 2 (08:20):
I think that the whole kind of concept of Lady
Whistledown is such an interesting idea because you figure it
is so you think about, I mean, people talk by gossip,
earl et cetera, et cetera. But it's so much rooted
in obviously the history of regency England and England. How

did you go about building because you're two different personalities,
so it sounds sort of like you did it. It
is two trains running, and then you put the trains
together and then started to tailor Penelope to incorporate whistle Down.

Speaker 3 (08:55):
Is that correct?

Speaker 4 (08:56):
Yeah, So Whistledout definitely had her her own voice before
I realized it was Penelope. But it didn't mean that
it couldn't be Penelope, because as I was writing the
first book, The Duke and I, Lady Whistleden was a
much bigger part of it than Penelope Feather and Chain was.
So it wasn't like I was establishing this Penelope's character

in a way that made it not make sense with
Lady whistle Down. It was sort of Yeah, So Lady
Wiston did kind of come first in terms of developing
the characters. And then as I realized I needed to
work with Penelope in this way. I started, I wouldn't
say hints, but started just building her out in a
manner that could incorporate this. And then when we got

to Romancing Mister Bridgerton, which is the book upon which
season three is based, that's when I really had to
get into it, because that's when you're finally in her head, right.
And I still wanted to write that book in a
way so that even halfway through the book, the reader
didn't know that she was Lady Whistledown. It didn't even
revealed to the reader. It still could have gone a

different way.

Speaker 3 (10:03):
I loved that.

Speaker 2 (10:04):
I mean I loved that, somehow or another, you were
still in point of view. And that's a real trick,
is to stay in point of view but keep a
secret from the reader without making the reader feel like,
how could I not have known this? But that was
such an incredible juggling act. Now I know we talked
about this in the Bridgerton book, that Whistledown is there's

a historical precedent for Whistledown because from what I understood,
there were gossip columns during this period of time. This
wasn't something which was totally out of the ordinary. I
suspect I don't know that the identity of the gossip
communist was always secret. I mean that I don't know.

Speaker 4 (10:46):
The big difference was that in the gossip columns they
never named people outright. God they always and you could
usually guess who it was, but they never actually wrote
out full names, and so that was meant to be
the big the big deal that lady whistled Awound was
actually pointing fingers directly at people, and then I tried

to make it so it was also maybe just being
a little bit I don't know, harsher's the right word,
but a little bit more detailed in what she was saying, too,
which made it pretty clear that it was one of them,
somebody who had a lot of inside knowledge was in there,
which I'm not sure the gossip colonists then were as
connected as Penelope.

Speaker 2 (11:28):
Yeah. I sort of feel like the gossip columnists then
were much more like blind items. I used to live
in New York and there was a New York Post
and there was these blind items. Was it felt to
me like it was much more observations without names, and
this which is so startling because it is calling out right,
you know that the ton of incredible detail. Penelope is

so incredibly captivated by the Bridgerton family, obviously, as are we.
I mean, what is it about what are the embody
that you feel appeals to Penelope to that degree? I mean,
can you say in words like what is it about that?
I mean, I know what appeals to me about the
Bridgertons is you just want to be a freaking Bridgerton.

Speaker 4 (12:10):
Yeah. I think it's just the love and the acceptance
and you know, the fun. I mean, they don't always
get along, but you know that they're always there for you.
They've always got each other's back, and that is something
that she's not getting in her family at all. She's
never feeling that she's got that her family has her back.
And in fact, in the book, and this was something
that we couldn't really incorporate into the television series because

we elected not to have Felicity, there was a fourth
Featherington's sister in the books, in Him's Felicity, And there
is a scene in the book which I thought really
encapsulated when Colin comes to ask for her hand, her
mother assumes that he wants Felicity, and she's just like Felicity,
Felicity get down here, and he's like, why would Felicity

need to be here, you know, And it was just
this perfect moment of all the ways Penelope has been overlooked,
which I mean, I do think the show still captures
it wonderfully even without Felicity, But it was just this
is what she sees as a family that supports each other,
which she just doesn't have.

Speaker 2 (13:14):
Now you have all the other Featherington girls and mom
with the letter p SO, because you have Philippa Pruden's Penelope,
and then there was.

Speaker 4 (13:27):
Philippa sounds like you an f SO. I don't know,
it just seemed like it just seemed like the right name.

Speaker 2 (13:37):
We'll be right back after this short break. Welcome back
to Bridgerton the Official Podcast. It should come as no
surprise that I love nothing more than a fast minded,
brilliant creative. Such a joy to take a peek into

Julia's Penelope process right now. As Julia mentioned, Colin and
Penelope story takes place in book four. However, we moved
it up to season three of the series. Why well
I talk more about this decision with the one and
only Jess Brownew. Jess is a fabulous writer, the phenomenal

showrunner for season three of Bridgerton in an all round
incredible human being who I've known many many years and
is just a big bright burst of talent to get
into Penn's series journey and some of the decisions of
how season three is crafted. Please enjoy my conversation with
the amazing showrunner Jess Brownew. Obviously, this is the season

of Colin and Penelope. We're all incredibly excited to see this.
I mean, we've been following them for two seasons now,
in their individual orbits and in their incredible friendship and
connection with the each other. I know, we decided to
skip a book in the series, so we sort of
went straight from book two to book four. Can you

give us any insight as to why we decided to
move out order on that, Jess.

Speaker 5 (15:12):
So we decided to move the book order for a
few reasons. First, you have the fact that you know,
we've known Colin and Penelope for two seasons now, We've
fallen in love with both of them. We love you know,
Nikola and Luke and want to see more from them.
But most importantly, there's this dynamic between Colin and Penelope

where she obviously has a massive crush on him and
he has no idea, or as soon as he is
about to have an idea, he pulls back from having
an idea, and it's a sort of infuriating dynamic. I
think as a viewer, you want to scream at your television, like,
come on, Colin, She's right in front of you. And

we just felt like that wasn't something we could continue
on for too long before people would be maybe physically
shaking their TVs. So it was really it was really
time to, you know, push their dynamic in a new
direction and see what else is there for them. I'll

say also that, as people know, the book that was
skipped was Benedict's book, and Benedict is a real fan favorite,
and he's a real writer's room favorite. You know, Benedict
has a real appetite for adventure, and it didn't feel
right for him to settle down to three seasons into

our show. It felt like we wanted to see more
of his adventures and give him a few more high
jinks before he's ready to meet his one and only.

Speaker 2 (16:45):
You know, I think that's such a good point because
in a way, it's despite the fact that there are
two trains running, you know, Penelope and Colin. We dug
much more into their stories. I mean, Colin had the
entire experience with Marina in the first season, and obviously
Penelope's been a point of concentration since we discovered she
was whistled down at the very least. So it does

make so much sense that these these two characters who
we've we've always had this connection with, get to move
forward at this point, you know. And I also just
think it's it's fascinating to have Penelope as the sort
of third heroine, if that makes sense, because so far
we've had Daphanie. She was poised and she was confident,

and she knew what she wanted and she was going
willingly into the marriage mart And then we had Kate,
who had no interest in it whatsoever except for her
sister and was feisty and judgye and and now we've
got Penn, who's, you know, sort of a wallflower. I mean,

how do you think Penn's going to bring and what
do you think she's going to bring to the table
as a leading lady.

Speaker 5 (17:57):
Yeah, you know, she's a very different kind of leading
life Penelope. She is a bit of an underdog and
has been underestimated left and right by especially her family
and the rest of society as well. And I think,
you know, Nicola Coughlan, first of all, brings so much
humor and optimism and this effervescence to the role, which

makes her a really exciting character. Even though Penn is
getting kind of dumped on left and right by her
family and everyone else, you always know that she's going
to find a solution, She's going to make the best
of a bad situation because that's what she does, and
Nikola brings that sort of, you know, sense of optimism.

So I'm really looking forward to seeing this character get
to shine this season. You know, she's spent so long
in the Shadows. She has this double personality where she's
a badass, she's whistled down deep inside, which is almost
like the girl if she were at the end of
her arc, and yet she can't show that person in

her public life, in her romantic life. So seeing her
get to step into her own with skills we already
know she has is really exciting.

Speaker 2 (19:19):
How do you think about her two identities and how
do you feel like they're intersected? In seasons one and two,
like how does she embody them?

Speaker 5 (19:27):
So we have Lady Whistledown on the one side, who
is this badass woman who has had the fortitude to
put together this scandal sheet, to figure out how to
get it printed, to figure out how to secretly destro it.
And then you have Penelope in season one, who, even
though she's you know, writing about affairs and really sexy,

scandal is like how do women come to be with child?
So there's this real dichotomy between what she has inside
of her. But the fact is she's still a girl
in seasons one and two, and it's a lot of
power and a lot of responsibility to give a girl,
and we've seen her make some mistakes along the way.

So when we enter season three, I think that that's
something that she'll have to reckon with.

Speaker 2 (20:21):
Yeah, in the relationship at the end of season two,
I mean when Elouise finds out obviously it's so complicated.
I mean that's that extra layer that now got placed
upon it, which is she has this particular power. She's
done her best to try to balance how to use
that power, and in the process has potentially destroyed forever
her best friendship, which is an incredibly difficult pill to

swallow in in a weird way. For me, when I
saw that, it was sort of like the first time
I think she actually really it fully resonated on to
her the kind of power she has because she made
certain choices. Is, you know, encouraging Eloise's breakup in order
to save her. It's it's this weird realization that you're

not just a gossip columnist. In a weird way, you're
playing god, you know it. Just certainly I think Eloise's
point of view too, And I really feel for Penelope
because I think your point is so well taken. She's
she's just a girl who needed an outlet.

Speaker 5 (21:27):
Yeah, she chose a pretty big outlet, but yeah, she
doesn't have the means to understand her power because she's
denied power in so many ways. Think about, you know,
Daphne in season one having sex barely explained to her,
and then you can extrapolate running an empire in which

you're sharing everyone's secrets, like you don't understand the code
or the ways of the world. No one is explaining
anything to these girls. They're having to figure it all
out for themselves.

Speaker 2 (22:00):
No, when you think about it, the only person that
she's been able to confide in at all in the
least tiny way as the mode East. You know, so
there's been she's had. To your point, it's it's not
like she has a team of a team of helpers
who are counseling her. There's no business here. It's Penelope
of the floorboards. She's also hiding it from everybody, So

it's it's definitely, it's definitely a lot. How did you
go about planning the seeds of pollen?

Speaker 3 (22:31):
Seeds of pomp? That's funny. How did you go about
planting those seeds like putting? I just realized that was.

Speaker 2 (22:38):
A pun y'all in seasons one and two, because I
know we just you know, you can't get away from
a good pun. Fans I think have really high expectations,
obviously for this relationship. I mean, I know I do,
and I'm sure everybody else does. And because we're so
invested in them, I mean, how do you ever meet

everyone's expectations? In the beginning of any of these shows,
like any any season of Bridgerton, it feels like, how
do you do it?

Speaker 5 (23:09):
You can't think about it, you know, when we talk
about the fans, when I first started on the show.
You know, my grandmother is ninety one years old. She
has never watched anything else I've worked on. You know,
she's very specific at her age about what she watches.
But when I told her I was going to write

on Bridgerton, she freaked out. She has read every single
Bridgerton book, you know, a decade before the show ever
was a thing, and she was like, don't let me down.
And it was a ton of pressure. But I've realized
that instead of worrying about what the entire fandom wants

to see, I hire people who are fans. We are
a bunch of fans sitting around in the writer's room
debating the marriage of different storylines. And you know, may
the best debate or win, I guess, but you know,
we have to write to character. Instead of thinking about
pleasing any particular faction of the fandom, we think about

who is this character, what is the arc that they
need to travel on, what obstacles are going to make
them face those.

Speaker 2 (24:24):
I know that makes a lot of sense. It's so
funny because I remember Necklace first audition, like when she
was auditioning and she was one of those characters we
cast virtually immediately off the first audition, and I think
we cast her so much as Penelope. I didn't even
I didn't even think about the whistle doown part. And

she's managed to embody in the most delightful way. All
that whistledown is, which is the fun, the innocence, the cheek.
It's incredible that she as an actress can do both
things so incredibly well. I think it's just a delight
to watch.

Speaker 5 (25:04):
Yeah, you know, and when we cast her, she's obviously
not she wasn't seventeen or however old the character was.
But I look back at those older seasons and she
has this little girl voice, and then every season the voice,
you know, sounds more and more like an adult. And
people will see stepping into season three, you know, she

sounds like someone who's been through some stuff now and
the character certainly has.

Speaker 2 (25:30):
Do you see up until now, how Penelopees evolved over
the course of the show, I mean, in how it's
signified to the audience, how she talks, how she dresses.
Because I feel like over the course of the past
couple of seasons, I mean, I'm very excited for this one,
but there have been these sort of adjustments.

Speaker 5 (25:50):
You look at season one and she has this, you know,
younger voice, and the way she dresses is obviously much younger.
It's dictated by what her mother tells her to wear.
And she also isn't speaking up for herself really at
all in season one. Then you track into season two
and you have these moments where, you know, Colin says

to her, I've sworn off women, and she says, but
I'm a woman, and he goes, oh, you're just Penelope
and she stops there. But there's just these little moments
where she goes, no, I'm gonna say who I am,
you know, very slowly. She's putting herself out there, and
we'll see a big swing in that direction in season three.

Speaker 2 (26:37):
Okay, we're going to hear more and more from the
brilliant Jess Brandellen coming episodes. I know I've said it,
I'm going to say it again, and then I'm going
to say it again after that. She is the very best. Now,
I couldn't think of anyone better to bring Penelope to
life than Nicola Cochlan. She has this hunger for love

well also having this equal passion for the Nicola embodies
this so seamlessly, and it is such a testament to
her talent. Schandalane sat down with Nicola behind the scenes
on set to discuss exactly what Penelope has meant to
her thus far.

Speaker 6 (27:17):
When I found out that Luke and I have the
leads of season three, my first reaction was panic rather
than excitement, because I didn't expect it, and I'd had
a conversation with Claudia a couple of days before, being like,
isn't it so fal underpaid? Like the weirdo in the corner,
and that's a real comfort zone for me. So then
the work in my brain to have to go, You're
the leading lady, you know. It's like art imitating life

in the show, Penelope having to come into her womanhood
and herself and who she truly is and have that confidence.
I've also been going on a similar journey because it's difficult,
you know, following the footsteps of Phoebe and Simone, and
I'm like, well, how am I going to do that?

Speaker 5 (27:54):
How am I gonna?

Speaker 6 (27:55):
You know, you you question yourself all the time, you know,
in pasture syndrome. But I think that's what has made
this such a beautiful experience.

Speaker 2 (28:06):
Thank you to my special guest Nicola Coughlan, Jess Brunnell,
and the incomparable Julia Quinn. I'm your host, Betsy Beers,
and thank you especially for listening to Inside the Ton.
Do you have any theories or hopes or dreams of
what Penelope will experience in season three? Ooh ooh, let
us know in reviews. We love reviews. Let us know,

and maybe we won't tell you.

Speaker 3 (28:29):
But we'll still love to hear it.

Speaker 2 (28:31):
And guess what you can get even more Inside the
Ton right now, because next up we're spotlighting the most
rebellious of the Bridgerton family, Benedict and Eloise, and exploring
how we left the notorious Swingset siblings at the close
of season two. I want to be there for that.
Of course I will, because I'm hosting Bridgerton. The official

podcast is produced by Shondaland Audio and Wonder Media Network.
This show is executive produced by Sandy Bays, Alex Alcea,
Lauren Homan, Jenny Kaplan, and Emily Rudder. Our producers are
Sarah Schleid, Edie Allard, and Carmen Borca Carrio. This episode
is edited by Jenny Kaplan and Emily Rudder.

Speaker 1 (29:14):
Our associate producers are Lauren Williams and Akia McKnight. If
you haven't finished binging Bridgerton, please head to Netflix so
you can enjoy these spoilers with us each week. For
more podcasts from Shondaland Audio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts,
or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.
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